How much do you know about synaptic pruning, and the role it plays in building new habits?

There is a phenomenon that happens as we age called synaptic pruning. Synapses are connections between the neurons in your brain. The basic idea is that your brain prunes away connections between neurons that don’t get used and builds up connections that get used more frequently.

Synaptic pruning occurs with every habit you build. The more you do something, the stronger and more efficient the connection becomes.

You probably have very strong habits and connections that you take for granted each day.

Your brain is probably very efficient at remembering to take a shower each morning or to brew your morning cup of coffee or to open the blinds when the sun rises or thousands of other daily habits.

But, did you know you can take advantage of these strong connections to build new habits?

James Clear, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, teaches us how to make the small changes that will transform your habits and deliver remarkable results that can help you on your weight loss journey.

In his book, James discusses that when it comes to building new habits you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage.

Habit stacking is a special form of an implementation intention, but rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit.

By linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain, you make it more likely that you’ll stick to the new behavior. Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together.

For example, let’s say you want to develop the habit of reading more each night. You can expand your habit stack and try something like: Wake up > Make my bed > Place a book on my pillow > Take a shower.

Overall, habit stacking allows you to create a set of simple rules that guide your future behavior. No matter how you use this strategy, the secret to creating a successful habit stack is selecting the right cue to kick things off. 

To learn more about how you can leverage habit stacking in your life and for actionable tips, read How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones, an excerpt from Chapter 4 of James Clear’s bestselling book: Atomic Habits.